I think something every adult needs to hear right now is that students are struggling. Just as teachers are most definitely overwhelmed with the new virtual learning process, Covid-19 has taken a toll on students as well.
As a band kid, I can personally say that not getting to play in different music ensembles and concerts this year has been a huge bummer and gotten me down several times. I got so bored and lonely without music that I went as far as creating my blog, MusicandMentality, to educate others, even if it is from my desk at home. The same goes for just about most students with any activity. This all goes back to the importance of mental health. Covid-19 affects youth mental health and how schools and administrations should start thinking about putting in systems and plans to help all students within a community stigmatize mental health.
The issue of not reaching out, of not supporting students enough with mental health, has only gotten so much worse because of virtual learning. When students are in school, they can be around other people. Students can have lunch with their teacher and confide in them about the struggles they are facing. It is a lot harder for students to make those meaningful connections in a virtual environment and confide with teachers about their mental health and other struggles.
I believe we can implement new trainings, systems, and ideas to reach out to their students about mental health. Suicide and student mental health issues are the hidden pandemics facing our students state-wide.
We need to prioritize suicide prevention and mental health education programs to save lives while dismantling the stigma surrounding mental health. Providing support would make students more likely to voice their struggles and start receiving the support they need. Moreover, the best part is that there is no one defined route; instead, support comes in many ways! It could be implementing a peer-support program, training teachers more in-depth about mental health, and providing resources directly to students, such as having more substantial clinical psychologists and mental health specialists.
Mental health matters. When students are not mentally healthy, everything else follows- their physical health, relationships, friendships, and connection to society. Physical health is mental health, and mental health is physical health. So why are we only placing importance on physical health?
I did a research project in a class during my first quarter this year. The topic was mental health in students, and I wanted to research the cultural side of it. I was amazed to read and learn about the differences in mental health symptoms and care between students of color and white students.
As someone who works every day on advocating for mental health and trying to dismantle the stigma and a student of color who formerly struggled with mental health issues, I was shocked to read about these differences in symptoms.
Principals, school administrations, counselors, staff are the people who work to make schools function and provide education to students. Students appreciate these adults and building leaders and are aware that finding the time to learn and implement new things about mental health can be difficult.
The time is now for student mental health to become a priority. Washington is starting to become a lot more diverse in terms of student representation and demographics. If we do not have intentional systems and services to help students of color, we miss an opportunity.
If we want to talk about equality for students of color, we need to address this issue head-on. We need everyone from administrators to science teachers to district offices to believe that it is a problem.
One solution is having more discussions about race and how it affects opportunities and resources. Although many of us have experienced or heard about how race and culture affect mental health resources, having a simple conversation about the issue would be the first step toward acknowledging the issue itself so that we can start working toward changing it.
One change schools can make when talking about suicide, use the expression "die by suicide" rather than "commits suicide." This is not the same as committing a crime, and decriminalizing suicide will show people how suicide is real and serious.
When we make a change in our behavior, this can and will impact others. Whether it is students or staff, people learn by example. Let us show others mental health matters by making changes within.
If we continue stigmatizing mental health, shaming those with depression, but mourning suicide, we will not and cannot accomplish the goal of well-being for students, staff, and the community.
Let us work to improve our community by de-stigmatizing mental health by making mental health a priority within yourself and for your family, community, and buildings.